March 26, 2005

Southwark Cathedral

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Southwark was once the entertainment district of London. It's most famous feature was the Globe Theatre where William Shakespeare produced the plays that school children all over the English speaking world hate and serious theatre goers absolutely adore. A modern reconstruction of the Globe Theatre stands on the spot and is dedicated to the exploration and performance of Shakespeare's works.

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Southwark is on the south bank of the Thames, just near the Tower Bridge. We accessed this area using the Big Red Tour buses on which you can buy a 24 hour site-seeing ticket. There has been a church on this site for over a thousand years. On the river side of the church a new conference centre has been built, containing a nice little cafe where we had lunch. Between the restaurant and the main structure of the church is an area where excavations have been left open so that visitors can see remnants of the Roman foundations and other early parts of the church walls.

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In Southwark Cathedral is a monument to the bard that was paid for by his admirer's. It contains a life-sized figure of Shakespeare, reclining in front of a bas-relief of the Southwark skyline, promenantly showing the theatre and the spire of the cathedral.

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February 16, 2005

Ely revisited

The lantern at Ely
I 'collected' Ely cathedral four years ago on my very first visit to England. In fact, it was the very first one. I had watched Ely on a webcam for months before we left Australia but that didn't prepare me for how beautiful it was. The ceiling of the nave is painted with figures from Christian stories and the crossing, pictured here, is an octagonal lantern, richly decorated with more figures of saints. Every time we have been back to England we visit Ely and find something new to see. This time I even took the time to sit for a while to draw.

Ely-006.jpgThe web site that I was watching before our first visit talked about this new statue of Mary that had been placed in the ancient Lady Chapel of the cathedral. It was very controversial. Detractors said that it reminded them of the glamorous presenter of an English gardening program and complained that the statue appeared not to be wearing a bra. I seriously doubt that Mary would have worn one either.

The Lady Chapel was being renovated during our second visit. Though we were not allowed in, you could look through the glass of the doors and see the tombs that had been exposed by the excurvations. This time I could sit in the chapel for as long as I liked, watching the visitors come and go, listening to the echo of their voices and the silence of them gone.

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February 15, 2005

York Cathedral

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This picture shows why I love to visit the cathedrals in England. They have some of the most beautiful architecture and decoration of any building that I have ever seen. Her is the ceiling decoration on the ceiling of the crossing, which is where the nave meets the trancept. It is one of the most individual feature of each cathedral. Some are plain but most are stunningly beautiful, like York.

Yorkcath3.jpgThe chapter house is a large room where the governing body of the cathedral meets. Often this room is a many sided circle, with individual seats around the wall for the members of the chapter. Some a richly decorated with carvings and York is no exception. It is said that many of the carvings in these buildings are portraits if the building workers and their families. They are images of people who have been dead for a thousand years. This carving shows a married couple.
For each of the cathedrals that I 'collect', I stand by the west door and take a photograph looking down the nave. From here it is possible to see the east window, the choir, the crossing and the wonderful light flowing in through the high windows along the nave. It makes the whole building glow, even in a late winter's afternoon.Yorkcath2.jpg

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February 8, 2005

Whitby abbey

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Sometimes my quest to collect my cathedrals leads to some adventures.

The signs in the town of Whitby in Yorkshire carried us through the town, over a bridge, up a hill covered in small cottages and then into a very large carpark. We have learnt from past experience to go right to the front of carparks as that is where one finds the disabled carparking spaces so this is what we did here. Again following the signs we set off to look for the abbey.

whitby2.jpgThe path was very rough and worn by little runnels of water that has flowed for most of the winter. It wound along past high walls on one side and glimpses of Whitby below us over the top of allotments. . The DH stuggled along bravely but, by the time we finally found a gate in the wall, he was knackered and stumbling very badly. We found him a spot to rest in the sun as it was really quite chilly in the shade and I went off to look for a way into the abbey. The tearooms were closed but there were lots of people about it looked as if it should have been accessable. No matter where I went, I couldn't get in so I took the photograph up there from the best vantage point that I could find.

Further investigation found a sign on the front gates, which were approached from the complete opposite end of the car park from our chosen spot and along a footpath beside the approach road. The abbey is not open in the winter, dispite all of the people. The road did make it easier for me to drive the car up to the gate so the DH didn't have to walk back.

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February 2, 2005

Christmas in Paris

notradame.gif Let's face it - I collect cathedrals. Since my first experience with Ely 4 years ago, I have collected cathedrals the same way as other people collect stamps or butterflies. Beautiful things are just irresistable.

What better place to spend Christmas Day in a city that is not your own, when you are far from your family, than in a church where everyone is celebrating the same thing that you are. Mass was just about standing room only and said in French, of course, so impossible to follow but it was still Christmas.

Notra Dame is very different from the many English cathedrals that I have photographed. It seemed to be a lot darker, I think. The east end is a somewhat shorter and rounded, which I hadn't seen before. English cathedrals have lots more famous and not so famous people buried and monumented in their aisles and chapels. I suppose that the lack of monuments could be the result of the French Revolution.

After mass we joined the throng of tourists that had continued to circulate around the side aisles throughout the service. In the south aisle I met Joan and in the north aisle, the Madonna and Child.

In the forecourt outside it seemed as though every sparrow in the whole of Paris had come to be fed. As I watched, parents gave their children crumbs to entice the the birds. This little girl made such a cute picture with the tiny birds fluttering around her head.

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